145 comments

Soldier of Luxury

warriors_at_restImagine for a moment that you are a warrior. Everything you own is on your back or strapped to your body, and you move effortlessly through the jungle.

You’re on a mission of critical importance. Your success determines the fate of many people, who will be grateful if you succeed. But you are not worried – the mission is your life and your life is the mission, and your calm determination keeps you moving, efficient, and richly aware of each moment.

During the days, you move. Slipping through the paths and vines, noticing how well your body works for you without a complaint. You can walk, or even run, all day. Sometimes you need to climb the cliffs, sometimes you swim across rivers or small lakes. Sometimes the jungle opens up and gives way to open desert – tall cacti alongside your path and enormous mountains in the distance which glow red with each sunrise and sunset.

Your machine-like body requires a lot of food, but fortunately, you feast every night. There is always a stream with sizeable and delicious fish, trees which bear tropical fruit and nuts, and plenty of fresh water. Nothing in the world is as tasty as these meals you cook over the fire, after a dozen hours on the move. After the feast you turn in for a sleep on a bed of the softest grasses. The temperature is perfect and your sleep is uninterrupted. You rise with the sun.

Frequently, you will come to a village. You have arrived to save the people from an invading force of enemies that could be here any day, and they welcome you with open arms. You talk with their leaders, townsfolk, and children, and they offer you food, drink, and stories.

The enemy arrives the next day, with an army that fills  the whole village square. You step out to meet their leader. Miraculously, you find you are able to resolve the conflict without violence. They turn back and return to their own village peacefully, and your wise words of nonviolence become a foundation of their culture for all generations to come.

Gradually your reputation grows, and your welcomes grow ever-warmer. In one village, you find a breathtakingly attractive and intelligent mate, and find yourself sharing a hut with this person. You settle down for a while, continuing peacemaking missions but also raising children of your own. Your new home is a warm community where everyone knows and shares with one another. You spend your village days learning, overcoming challenges, solving puzzles, and laughing with others. Your children follow your example and grow strong themselves, able to give and help wherever they go. This is a truly happy life.

This all sounds pretty damned sweet to me. It’s the life of a soldier, with minimal possessions, great strength and ability, and the ability to do great service. But yet the harshest parts have been taken out – the wars, injuries, danger, and bureaucracy which dumps orders down the command chain at you. This imaginary, very badass, and very happy person is The Soldier of Luxury, so named because of the amazing combination of soldier-like simplicity and dedication, with the incredible luxury of a life with very little danger of being shot at.

You might dismiss the tale above as pure fantasy. Sure, we’d all like to have long walks, jungles and deserts, fresh fish and berries, safe beds and attractive mates, and satisfying challenges with the opportunity to heroically help and teach others. But that just isn’t the world in which we live today. We’re stuck with concrete and SUVs, schedules and meetings, douchebag bosses and politicians, and endless obligations, bills and mortgages.

Except we’re not. And in fact, today’s world is quite secretly arranged with the ideal conditions for living the life of a Soldier of Luxury. Never before in history has the opportunity been so close and ripe, and yet never before has it been so far from the grasp of the brainwashed masses of our very wealthy population.

We live in a place where the food is safe to eat, astoundingly yummy if prepared well, and yet far cheaper than it has been for almost all of history. Fresh fish is just one of a thousand things you could eat for your next meal. You can find a place to sleep with a soft bed that is completely free from predators, allowing a peaceful sleep that most of your ancestors could only dream of. The world’s information flows past with perfect accessibility and you can learn, and even contact almost anyone on Earth using the same device that is planting these exceptionally valuable ideas into your mind. With these three tools, you are already sufficiently powerful to accomplish just about anything that can possibly be accomplished (and a few things that they say cannot.)

The life of a Soldier of Luxury is complete. Everything required for the deepest happiness and most satisfying life is built right into the package. Anything else is superfluous. Complicating life beyond this is just adding doilies and decorations, frilly curtains and chandeliers to an already-perfect home.

Sure, you can safely add a few complications if you like. I have done so myself over the years, with houses and cars, touchscreen thermostats and espresso machines. It’s all good, as long as you realize what you’re doing – decorating something that really doesn’t need decorating, if you really know what you are doing.

So herein lies the formula for an instant solution to most of life’s problems. Study the description of the Soldier of Luxury’s life. Acknowledge that this Badass individual has truly got it figured out, and that indeed, he needs nothing more than what is already in that amazing life. Then realize that you too have most or all of his advantages, and you can design a life that is just as satisfying.

What would the Soldier say if you went to his village and complained that you cannot escape the monthly payments on your Ford Explorer because you need room to carry the kids to soccer practice and put the dog in the back? Or that you can’t ride your bike because it’s cold outside? The Soldier would pick you up by the neck and heave you into the river, then return to peeling mangoes and avocados for his family’s dinner, thankful for the end of the whiny disturbance.

But what do you, the modern Soldier of Luxury, do if not living in a village and peacefully averting tribal wars? You might instead live in a modern city, spending less time in the office and more with family friends. You might take sabbaticals, or retire early, travel to some actual jungles or deserts, or do some form of work which is so fun you would gladly do it for free.

This concept of “I can be absolutely happy, with virtually nothing” is critically important to unlocking your mind from the little cage that consumer society welds around it.

  • Most people are still stuck at, “I can be absolutely happy, if I just strike it rich and famous like the stars on TV.”
  • Accomplished high-income people improve on this a little, saying “I will be truly happy – as soon as I have about twice what I have right now.”
  • With a bit more wisdom, you can get to “I can be truly happy, with exactly my life right now. Nothing more, nothing less.”
  • This is not a bad place to be, but the freedom to make positive change comes when you realize, “I can be happy with anything, I don’t need all this fluff that I have now. I am completely free to find happiness with any level of spending, consumption, complexity – or simplicity – in my life.”

Herein lies the real secret to very speedy financial independence for almost everyone – realize that right at this moment, you could theoretically cut your spending in four, and still have a more luxurious life than the Soldier of Luxury.  And thus, you could still have a more fulfilling life than you have right now. It might take innovation and teamwork, but it could be done. You don’t even have to take that drastic step. You could just take a tiny one like going out for a long walk on a cold day. It’s still a step towards Soldier status, and thus a step towards freedom.

We all have the ability to become Soldiers of Luxury, for our world is perfectly configured for it. Opportunities for achievement are widespread, and even the lowest income is very high relative to the cost of true necessities. Every notch you can bring your own life closer to that of a Soldier is a step in the right direction. Benefits begin immediately. Strip and pare the unnecessary decorations and distractions. Reveal the true you, simpler and stronger and more satisfied with life. You are not decreasing your quality of life when you give up the pampering – you are giving yourself a life – perhaps for the very first time.

 

  • Kelly December 10, 2013, 6:19 pm

    Nice post. I often like to stop, take stock of all that I have and all that is at my fingertips in this modern life, and try to imagine the reaction of a great great great grandmother to this wonderful life. I especially like the part about our peaceful modern sleeping environments. Just a few generations back hay-stuffed mattresses were the norm, yet now I sleep on an air mattress with 4 pillows just for me :). The sad part is that this all available to us, yet many of us can’t sleep properly because we are overweight, don’t exercise, etc. etc. The basic problem seems to be that many of our middle class, first-world habits are making a hell out of what could be a heaven.

    Reply
  • MariaSouth December 10, 2013, 8:45 pm

    MMM, I do not want to be nosy, but do not remember reading about your family, siblings, parents. Do they follow your phylosophy? Do you think you got it from your parents?

    My problem is that I do not see a concrete way to convince my anti-mustachian family that there is some other way to live a good life. They just do not listen, do not believe. For many years I though that the most powerful action I could take was to live my life the best I could and hopefully, they would learn from my experience. But I am not sure anymore. Maybe my experience is not good enough according to their standards.

    Notice that I do not mean wife/husband, as you are supposed to share priorities and goals with them, I mean siblings or parents, having their own family/goals/lives. You love them, you care about them and want them to have a nice, peaceful life, but you see them incurring in debt for things they do not need, living under stress or fear, broke, asking for money, working too much to pay bills… You know what I mean.

    Most of the people that read your articles are already mustachian at some level. But what about the others? I do not think they get the message. The other people are also nice people, saying “well, I know that these things do not make me happy, I know other things are more important, but they do make my life easier, or more comfortable or funnier, and they do make me feel good today, what else can I ask for?”.

    They say this so naively that, even when I know there are flaws in their argument, I run out of words and ‘forget’ about all I read in your articles and all I learnt from my own experiences.
    Of course all the words come back again two months later, when they ask me for money to pay for these things that were supposed to make them feel good.
    Yet they do not see it, are blind, there is always a good excuse. And everything goes on and on. And I get frustrated.

    I do not know what to do. Do you have some tips to convert beloved anti-MMM ones to the good MMM path?

    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • phred December 11, 2013, 6:52 am

      “when they ask me for money to pay for these things that were supposed to make them feel good.”

      This may be one of the few times I believe tough-love will work. Simply stop bailing them out. Otherwise, you, yourself, are teaching them their current behavior.
      Either tell them your money is locked up (in investments or the ocean cruise), or offer to buy the past thing from them for ten cents on the dollar so they will have the money to pay for the current thing. It will take a while to retrain them thusly

      Reply
      • Mr. Frugal Toque December 11, 2013, 7:56 pm

        Haha!
        Ten cents on the dollar.
        I would go with:

        “I got you the greatest gift I could give anyone. It’s called a ‘Kijiji account’. Your user name is ‘Spend-o-Clown’. Your password is ‘sellMyDumbassOutOfDebt’.”

        Reply
  • Roger Anderson December 10, 2013, 8:56 pm

    I want to echo what Drew said. To me, the prose is the thing. The message is understandable, Ya ya, I don’t need a TV, duh, but I do have a TV and I like it sometimes… “It’s all good, as long as you realize what you’re doing.”

    But the thing is, it’s hilarious. I can read this blog in 14 seconds because the words flow exactly as I want to hear them. The MMM turn of phrase has produced many new lexicons for me over this past year–see Clown-like car habit. But share your favorite quote/phrase of the year. For me it is still this one:

    “The Mustachian Way is to think of Air Conditioning as a pleasant luxury to be used when all other efforts fail. Much like a car. It should be an exciting moment in your household, when every one is drinking their gallon-sized containers of icewater, wearing comfortable and summery outfits of bare feet and tanktops, and the ceiling fan is running, when you proclaim, “God Dammit it is hot today!! Let’s turn on the AIR CONDITIONING!! YEAH!!!!”

    Reply
  • KiwiPom December 10, 2013, 8:56 pm

    There has been much talk of luck in this thread.
    My daughter was given a tee-shirt with the following printed on it –

    “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation”

    I think that sums it up nicely!

    Anyway, in all another good thought provoking article.

    Thanks, from New Zealand

    Reply
  • Karl December 10, 2013, 11:20 pm

    Great post and thought provoking. I have been enjoying these lifestyle and philosophical themed posts lately. Being happy with less, therefore freeing you to have more time and money to do more of what you love is very important. I live a semi-minimalist life at the moment, but I know that I could comfortably go further. How far before I am unbearably uncomfortable I don’t know, but I’d like to find out.

    We are so used to having everything on a platter, prepared and ready to eat. Pre-packaged single serve cultures. I want to work for things in life, earn them and value them. I’m not talking about materialism here either, I’m talking about personal relationships and having freedom to do things in life you love. Not just buy a sache, put it in a machine and have it come out ready to drink. No instant gratification, but instead ongoing happiness and true security!

    Reply
  • Hawkity December 11, 2013, 5:28 am

    Another great article !!

    I totally agree with the whole less is more thing & that we should all live with a lot less possessions that we currently have.

    I’ve currently at the stage where I am going through our whole house and giving items that we havent used in the last year to charity.

    My partner is slowly coming round to the idea that we dont need as much crap!

    Through time we are also stopping buying as many things ; difficult at this time of year due to Christmas.

    We are not there yet but are on the way!!

    Reply
  • Syed December 11, 2013, 2:58 pm

    What a stupendous post. I could not help but think of the old Conan the Barbarian movie starring Arnold (Though I don’t think he was very much into solving puzzles). It takes surprisingly little to fulfill, our physical, emotional and spiritual needs. I’ve always felt my ideal life would be that of an adventure, just traveling where the day takes me and making the most of whatever situation I stumble upon.

    Thank you for reminding me that it can indeed still be a reality.

    Reply
  • Tyler December 12, 2013, 10:35 am

    This is such a great blog! I’ve been making some great strides but still have a lot more to go. I just landed a job that is 100% remote starting Jan 1. I am going to challenge myself to not use my car once in January. (Luckily I enjoy the brisk Virginia air) Debt is nearly gone and I’m working on my fiance’ trying to cut cable out and go back to practical flip phones instead of expensive mini computers. And we are moving back to my condo in 6 months where the mortgage is much, much cheaper and almost paid off…

    This has been an eye opening blog for me and full heartedly believe that luxury is a huge form of weakness. Thanks for that quote.

    Reply
  • Jeff December 12, 2013, 3:08 pm

    I’ve been following your site for months, but am a first time commenter. I wanted to thank Mr. Money Mustache and his followers for steering me in the right direction. While I thought I understood my retirement options (save a small amount for 40+ years), this site gave opened my world to the idea of retiring young. I’ve since begun to change my ways on my path to financial independence. I was lucky enough to find this resource at a young age (26 years old) and have also begun to document my journey online! As always, this was another great article. Keep em’ coming MMM!

    Reply
  • Will December 12, 2013, 5:12 pm

    I believe the Soldier of Luxury’s great asset is his time.

    Reply
    • Mike Corayer December 19, 2013, 7:09 pm

      I completely agree. Time affluence is the wealth that matters most!

      Reply
  • Mr. Grump December 12, 2013, 8:52 pm

    As someone who is somewhere between “steps” two and three it almost seems overwhelming to get to step four. However, the Grump’s are fighting to get there and MMM offers a lot of great motivation. Although we haven’t implemented all the changes MMM recommends we are slowly checking them off the list. Today we got the library card and we are hoping to switch phones by months end.

    Having seen the light of FI attained through frugality we are trying to get there but its harder than I thought it would be at 23 days in..

    Reply
  • Ryan December 13, 2013, 2:11 pm

    I’ve found that sometimes when I’m least happy, it’s because I’m too stressed out about all the things I’m managing, which is usually the “stuff” I’m managing. Cutting down really reduces stress and I’ve even downsized because of it. Helps reading stuff like this to unplug from the marketing machine :)

    Reply
  • CincyCat December 13, 2013, 4:58 pm

    “The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.” ~ Martha Washington

    Reply
  • Phillip December 16, 2013, 8:01 am

    “Everything you own is on your back or strapped to your body, and you move effortlessly through the jungle.”

    Great article, as soon as I read this line I knew it was fantasy. There is no ease walking through the jungle with your Crap strapped to you. Anyone who has ever been to Vietnam or any kind of Jungle training will tell you, it is a nightmare. Glad I finished the post to see what was really meant. Just found your website and I’m looking forward to some more, thanks.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 16, 2013, 9:29 am

      Thanks Philip – since this is the Soldier of Luxury, he has the luxury of not needing guns or armor, making his burden much lighter. Just like most of us in the developed world. How easy we all have it!

      Reply
  • earlyretirementsg December 21, 2013, 11:06 pm

    Hi MMM,

    I like the idea of the soldier of luxury. However, in reality there are other points we’ll probably need to consider. Such as health care, medical expenses, taxes.

    Yes we could all be soldiers of luxury, camping and catching our own food. But what if we encounter a bear or fall and sprain a leg. Also, society requires civil workers like police and firemen, which is why taxes are required. Unless human nature changes it’s way of thinking, not everyone can become a soldier of luxury.

    BUT I do agree that it is an option in certain countries, Eg, Canada, Scandinavian countries where there is a social net. It gives the option to allow individuals to live the life which you have mentioned in the article. Thing is someone else has to pay the bill for social welfare.

    I’m not going down the route of “If everyone does that what would happen to society”. As I believe that everyone lives with their own choices depending on where they stay, and truth is not everyone will be willing to live that way.

    What I’m trying to highlight is more that it would be nice to live the life of the soldier of luxury but there are other risks involved which would leave the soldier room for disaster, like a serious illness. If he had a large capital base providing passive income and re-invested, with proper medical coverage, then he decided to live the life as a nomad, Similar to what you have done, then life would be good.

    But if someone who doesn’t have a large capital base and proper financial preparation, without medical coverage, and decides to just drop everything and start to live a life of a nomad, It would probably end up in disaster. Reminds me of Christopher McCandless.

    Rather it is more, if you have the option, then go ahead and do it and don’t be afraid, if you aren’t prepared, then get yourself prepared before doing it. But it’s probably not advisable to do it without being prepared.

    Reply
  • JT November 3, 2014, 6:36 pm

    May 2014 saw me resign, enjoy one month’s holiday and then four months of temping at low pay. We’ve been living on $700 p/f for six months. Some could say this is stressful with so little money and no prospects of future permanent employment. But it’s been incredibly free-ing! Every day, whether sunshine or rain, I wake with a lightness of being and the thought anything is possible. Optimism is rife, mainly due to the success experienced living on such small funds – there are ‘things’ we used to buy that don’t make the grade under this new budget and I’ve realised with sparkling clarity there’s a decision point at every purchase. Sometimes you think you need ‘things’ but when you consider this in light of limited funds, the need evaporates. Recently, I’ve had a job offer, and the spreadsheet analysis of income less expenses, has us saving comparably ‘big’ money (well, it feels ‘big’ compared to $700 p/f!). This has been a humbling moment of great excitement. Thanks MMM, this article hits a sweet spot.

    Reply
  • Wandering Whitehursts August 17, 2017, 12:05 am

    I’m fascinated that so many of your blog posts are heavily supported by biblical scripture, while I understand you may not “subscribe” to that particular ancient blog yourself. But when you speak the truth, as you do in this blog and so many others, it’s inevitable that scripture supports it.

    I tend not to make the biblical associations in the comments section, as I realize this isn’t your intent, but a central theme in this post was too much for me to pass up.

    “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
    -Philippians 4:11-13

    Unfortunately most people use that last sentence without understanding the context, but the quote hits the nail on the head I think.

    Oh, and that last sentence of the quote came to mind for me a few posts back in your http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/11/11/get-rich-with-the-position-of-strength/ article.

    Looking forward to catching up with your posts one day. I’ve been reading the blog for about two years but have not yet closed the gap. Too much life to live than to be staring at a blog for hours at a time.

    Keep up the good work!
    (Oh, we also passed through Boulder recently on the way to Rocky Mtn National Park, and thought of hitting you up for a bike tour of Longmont. But in the end we decided the detour was unjustified considering fuel used and whatnot to make it happen. Figured you’d appreciate the restraint more so than some stranger asking for some of your time for a bike ride.)

    Reply

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